Macclesfield Town ‘won’t be the last’ football club to be wound up, says lawyer

Macclesfield Town will not be the last football club to be wound up, a specialist lawyer has said.

Macclesfield were wound up on Wednesday by a judge who heard that the club owed more than £500,000.

Judge Sebastian Prentis made a winding up order at a virtual hearing in the Insolvency and Companies Court.

Lawyer Rob Turner said the coronavirus crisis was putting clubs under “immense pressure”.

Mr Turner, an insolvency specialist at law firm Brabners, predicted that more would suffer Macclesfield’s fate.

“Macclesfield Town is not the first football club to be wound up in court and it won’t be the last,” he told the PA news agency.

“Like all other businesses, football clubs are under immense pressure due to the ongoing pandemic, with lower and non-league clubs that operate on smaller margins particularly feeling the strain.”

Mr Turner said few lower division clubs had been able to account for a “sustained and catastrophic” loss of match day revenues.

He added: “The pilot scheme to bring 1,000 fans back into club stadiums this weekend is some consolation but more substantial financial impetus will be needed in the coming months if others are to be spared the fate of clubs like Macclesfield.”

Judge Prentis heard that Macclesfield owed nearly £190,000 in tax and more than £170,000 to two other creditors.

Lawyers representing HM Revenue and Customs had applied for a winding up petition.

The judge said he could see nothing which gave him “any comfort” that the club could pay its debts.

Macclesfield have recently been relegated from the fourth tier of league football into non-league football.

They were relegated after being docked points for breaches of regulations relating to non-payment of wages and dropping to the bottom of League Two.

Judge Prentis said the winding up petition had been presented “as long ago” as early 2019.

“There have been a number of adjournments of this petition,” he said.

“I can see nothing that gives me any comfort that this club can pay its debts within a reasonable period.”

A barrister representing Macclesfield had asked the judge to adjourn the application once more.

Niall McCulloch said discussions over a sale were at an advanced stage and that a buyer had been found.

But Judge Prentis said there had been “ample opportunities” for creditors to be paid.

– Meanwhile, the judge adjourned a bid to wind up Southend United in the hope that bosses could clear tax debts.

Judge Prentis considered Southend’s case at another remote hearing in the Insolvency and Companies Court on Wednesday.

Bosses at HM Revenue and Customs had applied for a winding up petition.

But a lawyer representing tax officials said debts had been reduced and asked the judge to adjourn the application to give bosses at the League Two club time to pay.

The case is expected to be reconsidered in a few weeks.